Atlético Madrid profiled

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FC Bayern are coming up against a familiar face in their opening match of the new Champions League season in the form of Atlético Madrid. The two sides have crossed swords four times in the last four years in Europe’s premier club competition, producing two wins apiece. fcbayern.com has examined the holders’ first group opponents.

Quarter-finalists last season

Atlético knocked out holders Liverpool in the last eight of the 2019/20 Champions League; Álvaro Morata scored the winning goal in extra time in the second leg.

The team from the Spanish capital finished third in La Liga last season and thus qualified for the Champions League for the eighth year running. They went all the way to the finals tournament in Lisbon in last season’s competition having beaten none other than holders Liverpool in a dramatic last-16 clash, only to then be knocked out by supposedly weaker opposition in RB Leipzig in the quarter-finals, losing 2-1.

Warmed up with a win

Four days before the meeting with Bayern, the Red and Whites celebrated a 2-0 success at Celta Vigo.

It’s been a somewhat stuttering start to the new campaign for Diego Simeone’s side. A storming 6-1 win at home to Granada in their opening match was followed by two goalless draws away to promoted side Huesca and at home to Villarreal. On Saturday, though, the Red and Whites warmed up for their visit to Munich with victory at Celta Vigo.

New signing Luis Suárez opened the scoring early on in the 2-0 win, with Yannick Carrasco making sure of the three points deep into injury time. With eight points from their first four games, Atlético remain in touch of the Champions League spots in La Liga, while their third successive clean sheet underlined their status as the best defence in Spain’s top flight.

Attacking reinforcements and a settled defence

There was little activity at Atlético during the most recent transfer window. Uruguayan pair Suárez (from Barcelona) and Lucas Torreira (from Arsenal) have added quality to the squad, while Carrasco has made his loan move from Chinese club Dalian Professional a permanent one. However, they’ve also lost two established figures in striker Alvaro Morata (to Juventus) and defensive midfielder Thomas Partey (to Arsenal), who made 90 appearances between them in all competitions last term.

Big-name signing Luis Suárez has quickly settled in with three goals in his first four games.

The centrepiece of the Spanish outfit is certainly their attack. With Suárez, Carrasco, Saúl Niguez, Diego Costa, Thomas Lemar, Angel Correa and wonderkid Joao Félix, Simeone has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, who are capable of changing a game. The Bayern defenders can also expect a few rough challenges: “One bites and the other stamps,” said burly forward Diego Costa about himself and his new strike partner, referring to Suarez’s violent conduct at the 2014 World Cup.

But for all that attacking quality, coach Simeone builds his team on defensive solidity. Preventing goals comes first, which is why only 10 of their 23 wins last season were by a margin of more than one goal, and they registered eight 1-0 wins. “They’re a strong and awkward team,” described FCB captain Manuel Neuer, with all due respect for Wednesday’s opponents.

Bayern just in front in head-to-head

Bayern won 1-0 in their last meeting with the Madrid club in the 2016/17 group stage courtesy of a Robert Lewandowski free-kick.

The current holders and three-times runners-up have met six times previously. Their first encounter came in the 1974 European Cup final, when Hans-Georg ‘Katsche’ Schwarzenbeck’s 120th-minute equaliser earned Bayern a replay, which they won 4-0 to claim the trophy for the first time in the club’s history.

It would then be 40 years until the two teams met again. In the semi-finals of the 2015/16 Champions League, it was Atléti who progressed to the final on the away goals rule. The Spaniards won 1-0 in Madrid, meaning Bayern’s 2-1 win in the return leg was not enough. The two clubs met again in the group stage of the following season, with both teams winning 1-0 at home and eventually progressing to the knockout stages.

Hernández’s old team

Lucas Hernández won the Europa League with Atlético Madrid in May 2018, the first major title of his career. More were to follow…

Hansi Flick will probably be able to get a few tips from Lucas Hernández on how Atlético play. The French World Cup winner had spent almost his entire career with the Red and Whites until his move to Munich last summer. The 24-year-old won the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup with the Madrid club and had “12 wonderful years” there, as he described upon his departure. “Atlético will always be a part of me,” Hernández said.

Following their 4-1 win at Arminia Bielefeld, Bayern began preparations for their Champions League opener against Atlético on Sunday:

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